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Country Gardens: How to start an edible landscape

If you already grow plants in your yard, it will probably be easy to incorporate vegetables, fruits and herbs into your existing beds to make an edible landscape. Besides providing tasty produce, many edibles are gorgeous and will add texture, fragrance and color to your beds.

To design an edible landscape, first take a look at your yard. Look for plants that are not performing and ones you can replace with varieties that have edible features. Blueberries, with their spring flowers, tasty fruits, and exceptional fall color, make great hedge plants.

Also consider growing fruit or nut trees. Locate them away from driveways, patios, decks, and walkways so the inevitable fruit and nut drop doesn’t cause a mess. Try other shrubs like the gooseberry, Nanking cherry, or chokecherry to name a few.

Most edibles perform best in locations that receive six to eight hours of full sun each day. Cool-season plants, such as lettuce, spinach, radishes and cabbage, tolerate some shade. But lettuces and small cabbages, in particular, can make for nice edging plants.

Garden structures, such as obelisks and trellises, add interest to your landscape while supporting edibles.

You don’t need to grow edibles in straight rows. Plant your herbs or vegetables in graphic, pleasing patterns, leaving enough space between plants to avoid overcrowding but close enough to create a dense appearance and shade out weeds.

If you’re growing edibles among your other landscape plants, you’ll want them to have neat and tidy growing habits, minimal pest problems, and bountiful production.  Herbs are one of my favorites to include with flowers. The foliage adds to the flowers, and you can grow enough herbs to last all summer long in a fairly small space.

One of the biggest challenges to an edible landscape is the light conditions and critters, such as deer and rabbits. The best way to manage deer is with netting or a fence at least 8 feet tall, which is impossible to do in most front yards. Repellent sprays can be effective if gardeners make frequent applications and change formulations so deer don’t become accustomed to them. To keep rabbits out, enclose gardens with a 2-foot-tall chicken wire fence that has 1-1/2-inch mesh. Dogs also can be effective deterrents. There are also sprays on the market that seem to work well. Look for those that are natural. is one example of a company that has several natural products. You can search online for more.

At the beginning of every growing season, walk through your landscape to note how the evolving growing conditions are meeting the needs of your fruits, vegetables and herbs. Look for changing sun-shade patterns, low-water areas, poorly drained spots, crowded garden beds that need to be expanded, and plants that need dividing. Don’t expect vegetables to grow well in the dry areas under your home’s eaves or near trees where their roots will compete for water.

Many edible plants are susceptible to disease problems, so keep an eye on them and treat any issues as they pop up. Removing diseased foliage is one of the best things you can do to keep diseases from spreading wildly.

Perk up your beds this year by adding herbs, fruit bushes and vegetables, and you are on your way to knowing how to do “edible landscaping.”

Send your garden questions to Christine Schlueter, 19276 Walden Ave, Hutchinson MN 55350 or email

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